It was a sunny, crisp October day. My son Andrew was two months old. My C-section line was equally new. Where I was standing in motherhood was more rock, less sand.

I had gone through a breastfeeding disaster and had come out the other side, clutching a bottle of Nestle Good Start in my hand. I could change a wet diaper in the dark. The night feedings weren’t such a shock to my system anymore. But the colic, oh the colic, still plagued me. I felt helpless to soothe Andrew.

With the sun bathing my old kitchen in warmth, I beat the cake batter on low with the hand mixer. I was making one of my husband’s favorite desserts–an angel food cake filled with a tunnel of chocolate pudding, and the whole outside covered in whipped cream, aptly named snow tunnel cake. He was out mountain biking and Andrew was napping when the peaceful quiet in the house was interrupted by the shrill ring of the phone.

It was the hospital.

“Your husband has been in an accident,” a nurse said calmly. 

My heart pounded in my ears—I could barely make out what she was saying. I gripped the black cordless phone tightly in my sweaty hand.

I grabbed a pen and wrote down the details.

The hospital was like any other–white, sterile, and cold. Andrew was fast asleep, a soft blanket tucked around him, a pacifier dangling precariously out the side of his little pink mouth. The stroller wheels squeaked on the tile floor as I followed a nurse to the bed where Russ lay, still caked with dry mud.

Broken collarbone. Fractured wrist. Tons of cuts and abrasions.

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Returning home to our small, redbrick house, I set the car seat on the living room floor as Andrew started to stir. I settled Russ on the plaid couch and then turned my attention to what needed to be done. Dirty measuring cups and bowls surrounded the unfinished angel food cake, abandoned hours ago, its scent now cloying. Baby bottles needed to be washed. Andrew needed to be fed and changed. The dog needed to go out. Russ needed help with, well, with everything.

I froze. I could feel my shoulders, filled with tension, sitting up high near my ears. I was sweating even though it wasn’t that warm in the house. 

My thoughts raced frantically as I tried to decide what was the most important task to start with. Suddenly, I felt a snap inside, like thin ice breaking on a pond, and I sprung into action.

The weeks that followed were filled with my colicky baby screaming, with me alone to pick him up. Russ in pain, needing medication, x-rays, and appointments, help getting up, help in the shower. Our retired racing greyhound, Maggie, still only months new to us, needing to be fed, walked, loved. All responsibilities fell heavy on me alone.

And I was angry.

I wasn’t angry with Russ. It was an accident.

I had no one to direct my rage at. Which made it all the more upsetting. I couldn’t yell at the situation or cry at the situation or ignore the situation. 

I rushed through the days and the nights, trying to meet everyone’s needs. I cried a lot.

I had to reschedule Andrew’s baptism by myself. Call the church. Call family and friends. Call catering. Each time, I had to explain the situation and apologize for the inconvenience. Like it was my fault.

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The laundry. The groceries. The dishes. The bottles. The diapers.

I would try to sneak a shower while Andrew was sleeping, but he would always wake up and scream. Russ couldn’t pick him up, so he felt terribly guilty. I hated listening to Andrew scream so I felt terrible. Andrew likely felt terrible. And surely, the dog hated all the noise and felt terrible.

The dishes were a mess. The laundry was a mess. I was a mess. The load was too heavy. It was too constant. It was too much. And I was too alone.

I pushed on and the days blurred.

After four weeks, Russ had healed enough to pick up Andrew. By then, his colic was lessening. I had wrangled the house into a better state. I had rescheduled everything for the baptism. And my anger had cooled to a low simmer.

On the day of the accident, I had climbed up a steep hill, the crunch of fragrant leaves under my old sneakers, to retrieve Russ’s broken, twisted bike. My husband and son were far below, waiting in the car. Waiting for me to handle this.

The hill felt monstrous, like a mountain. My calves burned and my breath came in huffs and puffs. Sweat rolled down my back. My C-section line, newly healed, ached with each step. I had no choice; I had to make it to the top. 

I didn’t want to–I didn’t ask for this. I was supposed to be on babymoon, loving my baby and learning about being a mom. I trudged upward, one step at a time until I reached the top.

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Once home, I quickly lost the battle with the mountain of tasks that needed to be done. With no choice, I plodded through, one day at a time. After a month, I had scaled that impossible mountain, too.

Now standing at the top, at the end of those four long weeks, my gaze fell to what lay below, and I was stunned by the view of what I had accomplished. 

I let the past several weeks, with all of their challenges, roll through my mind like shaky black and white images flickering on a projector screen. 

I thought I would have cried at that point. I thought my anger would have flared up again. I thought I would have collapsed from exhaustion.

I surprised myself. 

I felt strong. I felt capable. I felt proud. 

My shattered pieces were glued back together. All the broken lines were still visible, but now they served as a reminder of how far I had come.

I had faced one of the toughest times in my life—as a woman, as a wife, and as a mother. The loneliness I felt was unbearable at times. I had been too tired to pray. He heard my heart anyway.

God walked with me up that difficult mountain. He cooled my anger and anxiety when they bubbled over. He moved me to act when I froze.  He gave me His strength when I had none.  

I was never alone.

Carole Johnston

Carole Johnston has been married to her college sweetheart for 22 years, and adores her teenage son and daughter. When she isn’t working at a local college, she can often be found baking while singing the wrong words to popular songs. Her love of organizing products is matched only by her love of make-up. Carole has been published in Her View From Home, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident, The Metabolism Miracle, Fire of the Spirit: The International Library of Poetry, and Ignite News. Her hope is that her words will help others feel understood and less alone, and maybe bring some humour to their day. She would love for you to join her on Facebook for some @FamilyFunAndDysfunction